Monday, February 8 , 2016, 10:43 pm | Fair 57º

KEYT News Anchor Paula Lopez Found Safe after Daylong Search

Well-known Santa Barbara journalist reported reunited with family just before 6:30 p.m.; no other details immediately available

KEYT anchor Paula Lopez during a 2010 Noozhawk Talks interview.
KEYT anchor Paula Lopez during a 2010 Noozhawk Talks interview.  (Elite Henenson / Noozhawk file photo)

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff | updated logo 7 p.m. |

Missing KEYT News anchor Paula Lopez was safely reunited with her family late Wednesday afternoon after an intense search near her foothills home west of Santa Barbara, authorities confirmed Wednesday night.

Lopez, 48, was reported missing around 10 a.m. Wednesday, and her family and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department personnel launched an exhaustive search of the neighborhood near Cathedral Oaks and North San Marcos roads.

Family members called the sheriff’s public safety dispatch around 5:30 p.m. to report that she was home safe, and responding deputies confirmed she was no longer missing, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

“We are not commenting on the reasons surrounding why Ms. Lopez went missing due to the fact it is a private family matter,” she said.

Just after 5 p.m., Hoover announced that the search had been suspended. With a couple of hours of daylight left, no other details were released at the time.

“We have been in touch with her family and know they, as well as local authorities, are doing everything possible to find her safe and sound,” KEYT general manager Mark Danielson wrote in an email to Noozhawk earlier Wednesday afternoon.

Lopez, who co-anchors the 11 p.m. news for the Central Coast’s ABC affiliate station, was reported missing at about 10 a.m. Wednesday by concerned family members, said Hoover, who added that foul play was not suspected.

Her husband, Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa, could not be reached for comment.

Sheriff’s deputies, two K-9 units, a sheriff’s Air Support Unit helicopter and the sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team were deployed in the search.

“It is clearly a difficult time for her family and our own family at KEYT,” Danielson said in his email. “All of us at KEYT stand ready to assist in any way we can. For now, on behalf of KEYT and NPG of California, our thoughts and prayers are extended to Paula as well as her family and those searching to find her. We hope for her safe and speedy return.”

Check back with Noozhawk for updates to this story.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 02.27.13 @ 11:36 PM

This is not a “private family matter”. The taxpayers of Santa Barbara County just spent thousands of dollars searching for Paula, including the use of a county helicopter. My guess is she was suicidal, which would explain why she was declared missing a half hour after she talked to family members. Her family needs to come clean.

» on 02.28.13 @ 12:33 AM

Hey 12345,
We spend this money everyday on behalf of any of our citizens who are in need. Our law enforcement, firefighters and paramedics help people in situations like this everyday and no, you don’t get to have all the details. HIPPA you knucklehead protects us all from prying eyes. She’s a newscaster not a reality show star.

» on 02.28.13 @ 01:16 AM

12345- come clean? Most of what law enforcement and emergency response deals with has to do with “family metters”.  Most just dont have the misfortune of being high profile enough to have a noozhawk article.  There but for the Grace of God go I, you, whomever. Im just grateful she is safe.  She has contributed much to this community her entire life. Compassion should take precedence.

» on 02.28.13 @ 04:42 AM

While I can agree with much of what the others have said, I am afraid that 12345 is correct on this one.  You would not have both K-9 teams and the helicopter in the air if it wasn’t a judges wife.

» on 02.28.13 @ 11:57 AM

I think SB’s rescue teams did the right thing in using all available means to find Paula asap. Thank God she’s ok. When your’e related to/married to such a high profile Sup Court Judge, such as Judge Ochoa, any of these family members, etc, can be the subject of retaliation from “the convicted” at any time. Good Job SB for getting out there immediately and searching non-stop.

» on 02.28.13 @ 12:16 PM

I too agree with what everybody is saying, ‘thank God she is safe’, but somebody has to pay for this. If this was our family, they would not have sent out the K-9’s and helicopters. They first would have waited 24 hours. I get that the family is in the media and he’s a judge, but I would not consider that a “high-profile” family! I just hope us, taxpayers, are not stuck with that bill. My brother was in a tragic accident and we had to pay for the $1200 ambulance and all county related personnel to the scene.

» on 02.28.13 @ 12:24 PM

I agree with Interloper on this one. For any Jane, Jo, or Sally the law enforcement would require a person to be missing for 24 hours before conducting a search like the one they did. Using public resources for this kind of favorable treatment, simply because she is a local “celebrity” and married to a judge, is wrong.

» on 02.28.13 @ 01:07 PM

Something is odd here.  She was reported missing in the middle of the day?  Not 24hours as required by law. And the Calvary was sent out?

Let’s find out the truth here and hold those responsible, responsible.  The truth wont hurt, or will it?

» on 02.28.13 @ 01:09 PM

She got fired by KEYT (that’s why they already brought Sara Bush in).  And she wasn’t feeling too good about it all.
Ochoa better pay for the helicopter and sheriff payroll, because they started looking before the 24-hour rule, and there was no foul play.

» on 02.28.13 @ 02:01 PM

Greg, you can’t just say something like that without proof.  How do you know she got fired?  Where did you get your info?

I’m glad she was found safe and sound.  I hope she and her family resolve whatever issues they have… in private.

» on 02.28.13 @ 02:39 PM

More anchor babies using up resources.

» on 02.28.13 @ 02:39 PM

goletasunshine, Everything is not always sunny.  She got fired.  You’ll see tonight.

» on 02.28.13 @ 03:23 PM

I am glad she is okay.  I have one question, if it was suspected suicide would that be a reason to call out all the emergency services to find her?  If it were you or I, would they do the same in that instance?

» on 02.28.13 @ 04:05 PM

The return of Aimee Semple McPherson?

Or a family spat, with someone storming out?

If Joe or Jane Doe had “vanished” for just eight hours, in a huff or not, would so
much public safety and public media power have been deployed?

Very glad Lopez is safe and sound. But somehow, I doubt anyone else would have warranted this kind of high-cost search and rescue operation in this County.

Many counties now bill “lost” hikers or mountain climbers for tax-payer “rescue”
costs. Perhaps Sheriff Bill Brown and the County should do the same for Lopez
and Judge Ochoa.

» on 02.28.13 @ 04:39 PM

Paula’s family has the responsibility to ensure she does not do this again. remember, it was Paula’s family that called the Sheriff’s and instigated the search. Who’s going to pay for the $2500 per hour helicopter the next time Paula takes off? According to reports posted at 1:00 PM yesterday on edhat Sheriffs deputies were searching for a suicidal woman with medical conditions. Why did Paula’s family leave her alone yesterday morning when she was in a suicidal state of mind? I stand by my statement that Paula’s family needs to come clean on this incident.

» on 02.28.13 @ 04:41 PM

I agree with 12345!!!!  1/2 hour after she goes missing and they have helicopters and k-9s looking for her??? She’s been looking horrid on the channel 3 news lately and hadn’t actually been on for a couple of days prior to yesterday’s disappearance.

» on 02.28.13 @ 04:44 PM

After digesting all of the information, speculation, and misinformation I’ve read about this for the last 24 hours, it seems to me that Paula Lopez may be having medical, family, personal and/or career issues. If it’s true that someone picked her up and drove her away, then she likely knew where she was the entire time she was gone from home. If so, then the entire expensive search effort was probably unnecessary.

“Private family matter” notwithstanding, Ms. Lopez is a local Prominente and public figure, and is married to another local Prominente and public figure, so I wasn’t surprised by the immediate public effort to locate her. Neither she nor Judge Ochoa should have been surprised at the effort, or by the intense public interest and speculation thereafter.

Unfortunately, they have chosen to get behind the “private family matter” smokescreen, without any thanks for the search effort or appreciation for the public’s concern, which has created even more speculation in the public’s mind. IMO, the opportunity for a “teachable moment” has been squandered.

If Ms. Lopez needs help of some kind, I hope that she gets it.

» on 02.28.13 @ 04:45 PM

Aimee Semple McPherson returned to civilization after staging her disappearance.  ‘The tale was later satirized by Pete Seeger in a song called “The Ballad of Aimee McPherson”, with lyrics claiming the kidnapping had been unlikely because a hotel love nest revealed “the dents in the mattress fit Aimee’s caboose”.’

» on 02.28.13 @ 05:06 PM

It was a relief for the community to hear Paula was safe, maybe not OK, but safe at home.  I was very impressed with the Sheriff’s deputies that responded; I only wish that type of response would occur that quickly (24 hour law) when someone besides a judges wife is reported missing.  The strangest part of this saga was she wasn’t missing.  What I mean by that is she wasn’t lost, kidnapped, abandoned in the forest, or broken down in the middle of parts unknown.  Whatever her motives were for not checking in or why anyone reported her missing is none of my business, unless it was a fake report or attempt to cover something up.
The rumor about Paula getting canned has been around town ever since the Shirin showed up, and the station was sold.  When C.J. Ward, and Shirin reported the story there was no emotion or sign of concern from either of them.  The lack of concern made me think they knew something they weren’t reporting and that Paula was safe.

» on 02.28.13 @ 05:17 PM

Riddler observes “When C.J. Ward, and Shirin reported the story there was no emotion or sign of concern from either of them.  The lack of concern made me think they knew something they weren’t [sic] reporting and that Paula was safe.”
Was it a publicity stunt that backfired on KEYT?

» on 02.28.13 @ 06:10 PM

when did it start getting edhatty in here? i didn’t realize so many of you had people go missing without adequate timely response.

» on 02.28.13 @ 06:12 PM

Glad to see she returned safe. But what makes Paula or Judge Ochoa any better then the rest of the public? Would the Sheriff send as much manpower and equipment out for Joe Citizen? How much did this time cost the taxpayer in this extreme budget when everybody is trying to cut services or charge for services.

» on 03.01.13 @ 07:11 AM

Judge Ochoa has had a very bad week. It is time for compassion not derision.

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